Can Lance Stephenson Rebound?


After A Terrible Year, What Can The Charlotte Hornets Do With Lance Stephenson?

Lance Stephenson admitted he had a bad year, but recognizing the problem is only the first step. Now, the Charlotte Hornets have to create a solution.

"“My 3-point percentage was the lowest ever in history. That’s terrible,” Stephenson said. “I have to come in and figure out how to be a better shooter. Being a good shooter will help my overall game. When people sag off of me (playing him to drive), it’s harder for me to be successful.“It’s confidence – just wanting the shot to go in so bad and then you lose your confidence. That plays a major part when you don’t have confidence in your shot. This summer I’m going to find my confidence.”"

In his first season with the Hornets, Stephenson set the mark for the worst three point shooting in the history of the NBA for any player with at leas 100 attempts.

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He went 18-105 from behind the three point arc, which is a really, really, really bad 17.1%. He was not much better from inside the arc, either, where he made just 42.5% of his field goal attempts.

As a comparison, last season Stephenson shot 54.5% on two point attempts, and he has a career percentage of 49.6%. If you dive down deeper into Stephenson’s shooting data, you get a somewhat confusing picture.

2-Pt Field Goals
FG% by Distance
Season2P0-33-1010-1616 <33P%Ast’d

Provided by View Original Table
Generated 4/17/2015.

This is Lance Stephenson’s shooting chart, showing how well he shot based on distance from the basket. Of a few things to note, the first is that Stephenson’s biggest decline, other than this three point prowess, was close in around the basket.

He dropped from 69.3% to just 56.9% on shots taken within ten feet of the rim. This can be easily explained by the fact that Charlotte has horrible team shooting. No one on the Hornets could make a three(including Stephenson).

This mean Stephenson was driving into traffic every time he tried to get to the rim, and facing two or three or even four defenders waiting to block or alter his shot. Given the degree of difficulty on most of his tries, its amazing that number is as high as it is.

Not just the extra defenders, but because Charlotte head coach Steve Clifford abhors helter-skelter fast-break basketball, Stephenson got none of those easy baskets that help improve your shooting percentage.

The other thing that popped out at me when looking at his shooting chart was that his mid-range jumpshot actually got much better this season. Last year in Indiana, he shot just 29.9% from 10-16 feet, while this year he is up to 41.8%.

That is a respectable percentage, and it shows that perhaps he is not totally worthless as a player. If the Hornets could find a couple of long range shooters, and if Stephenson could rediscover his three point shot, then perhaps next season he can become a valuable player off the bench.

However, that brings up a point that needs to be addressed. Stephenson is making $9M in 2015-16, and yet, he is not going to be starting. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist grew his game considerably this season. He is a natural leader, and the Hornets were much, much better with him on the court(just look at their 6-21 record when he missed games).

So, if Kidd-Gilchrist is on the floor, and Kemba Walker is your starting point guard, you cannot put Stephenson out as your shooting guard. That would be three non-shooters on the court at the same time, with Big Al and Cody Zeller.

Zeller has been tasked with developing three point range, in order to further his career, but that would still leave three guys the defense can play softly on the perimeter.

Walker will never be a three point marksman, and Kidd-Gilchrist did not even attempt a three in 2014-15. Stephenson would again be facing multiple defenders as he drives into the paint.

No, the best place for Stephenson is the bench, but can you justify a $9M sixth man? Especially one that did not exactly set the world on fire?

Hornets general manager Rich Cho knows that his best bet is to trade Stephenson, even if everyone is saying the right things right now. Some team out there, seeing that Stephenson’s salary is only guaranteed for this season, will take a chance on him.

Right now, Cho is talking about Stephenson improving his shot, so he can have a better year with the Hornets, but we know it is just a smokescreen.

"“It didn’t work out as we expected it to,” Cho said. “I don’t want to look backwards, I want to look forward. I expect Lance to work hard this off-season and have a better season next year.”"

"Like I told Lance yesterday, I didn’t think he played well,” Cho said. “He’s got to improve. In the 2013-14 season he shot 35 percent from 3s. This year it was 17 percent. He’s got to improve that.”"

Cho needs to accept that no deal will return anything of value, but that addition by subtraction, ie: subtracting Stephenson, is the best thing for the Hornets. Use that $9M for a threes and defense kind of player, or even a couple of them.

Stephenson is a bad fit, and while he behaved himself off the court, his on-court production was unjustifiably bad. He is a terrible fit on the team, and a trade to a better situation is a win-win for everyone.

Next: Hornets Five Best Games of 2014-15